Reds have key bullpen role up for grabs

February 17th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds currently have one left-handed reliever expected to be in the eight-man bullpen this season in . Manager David Bell wouldn't mind having a second southpaw.

"Ideally, you want to have a mix," Bell said on Friday. "Typically, you always carry more right-handers than left-handers, but having left-handed options, more than one, can really help us win. It can take some pressure off Reiver. It’s not the most important factor in who makes the team, but it is something that would be nice."

Before Sanmartin emerged as a rookie, Cincinnati didn't have enough reliability from lefty relievers in 2022. Justin Wilson was limited to five games before an elbow injury. Ross Detwiler was added in April and released by the end of August.

The competitors for the second lefty role this spring are a pair of non-roster pitchers in offseason addition and , who was signed on Wednesday.

Young, who pitched last season for the Giants and Guardians, came up with the D-backs where Bell's brother, the late Mike Bell, was a player development executive and manager.

“Mike had a big influence on my life while with the Diamondbacks," Young said. "I wouldn’t say he was an outgoing person, but just knew the right things to say. He meant a lot to me. Talking to David after I signed, it made me feel better about being here and the opportunity that’s here. I’m just excited for that.”

In 25 big league appearances combined for Cleveland and San Francisco, the 29-year-old Young had a 2.36 ERA and a 2.89 FIP. He had a 54.2% ground-ball rate and did not allow a home run in 26 2/3 innings -- a small sample for a season but one that could be very helpful at Great American Ball Park.

Young credited adding a slider to his pitch repertoire and grip changes to his sinker for the improvement after a couple of seasons of struggles.

“Last year, Cleveland and the Giants really helped me, I think, find who I really am with pitch sequences and pitch shaping and all of that stuff," Young said. "I think it brought the best out of me, and I’m using that this year. When you throw a lot of ground balls, you don’t have to worry about how big or small the ballpark is.”

More notes from Friday at Reds camp
• Infield coach Jeff Pickler found a way to add some enjoyment to the normally mundane PFP (pitcher fielding practice) drills. Pitchers fielded balls in front of the mound and threw to second base, immediately followed by fielding another grounder on the grass and throwing to a fixed target at third base and finishing by catching a popup in foul territory.

It got competitive, with players cheering for the throws that hit the third base target and some frustration shown by those who missed. 

“That was just a new way to kind of compete and keep it on the body, a fun way to hammer out fundamentals," Reds reliever Lucas Sims said.

• The Reds learned that infield prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand's back injury is not serious.

“It was a little bit of a scare at first," Bell said. "Now I think he’s going to be fine in a matter of a few days. ... He had an exam done. It was something he had in the past that’s not an issue. A small aggravation. He should be back next week.”

• Catcher Chuckie Robinson, a non-roster player, has yet to arrive to camp after his family welcomed a new baby.